ZURICH (Reuters) - A Swiss court rejected on Tuesday a bid by film director Roman Polanski for release on bail as the risk was too high he would flee pending extradition to the United States for having unlawful sex with a minor in 1977.
“According to Swiss law, detention is the rule during the entire extradition proceedings,” the Swiss Federal Criminal Court said in a statement. “The court considered the risk that Roman Polanski might flee if released from custody as high.”
The 76-year-old Oscar-winning director, who holds dual French and Polish citizenship, was arrested at the request of the United States when he flew into Switzerland on September 26 to receive a lifetime achievement prize at a film festival.
Polanski’s French lawyer Herve Temime has said his client was depressed and tired and has been moved from jail for medical treatment.
Temime was not available for comment on Tuesday but Swiss news agency SDA quoted him as saying Polanski would appeal against the decision and offer stronger guarantees to ease concerns he might flee Switzerland.
The court said in its ruling Polanski had many reasons to run away if released on bail, including the fact he could face a U.S. jail sentence of up to 50 years which would mean a painful separation from his wife and children, aged 11 and 16.
It cited his lawyer as saying that longer detention could lead to a loss of around $40 million that investors have put up and ruinous damage claims against him if he cannot finish his new movie “The Ghost,” due to premiere in February.
The court also said it would be very easy to escape across the border from Switzerland back to his home in France.
It said Polanski’s offer of putting his Swiss holiday home up as bail was not sufficient so it could not decide whether a proposal of combining bail and house arrest with electronic monitoring would prevent him from fleeing.
It said Polanski could make a new bail proposal to the Swiss justice ministry, which rejected a separate bid for release earlier this month due to fears the director would flee.
Polanski, who won the ‘best director’ Oscar for the 2002 Holocaust film “The Pianist,” pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977 and spent 42 days in prison undergoing psychiatric tests.
But he fled the United States before the case was concluded because he believed a judge would sentence him to up to 50 years behind bars despite a plea agreement for time already served.
The Swiss court said it did not consider that Polanski’s extradition was “evidently inadmissible” although it would only fully examine that in the real extradition proceedings.
U.S. authorities have until the end of November to make a firm extradition request. U.S. judicial sources have said the complex extradition process could take years if Polanski challenges it.
Editing by Angus MacSwan